Thursday, September 18, 2014
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First Nation land decision will affect Ring of Fire: NAN

CBC News

Nishnawbe Aski Nation says a landmark court decision will significantly impact development of the Ring of Fire.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled Thursday that a BC First Nation has control over 1,700 square kilometres in its traditional territory.

NAN Grand Chief Harvey Yesno said the ruling sends a strong message that the government must recognize and respect Aboriginal title and deal honourably with First Nations.

“There's a number of First Nations that are in land claims negotiations,” he said.

“I'm hoping it'll be a positive impact to settle or accelerate."

That includes the much-talked-about chromite-rich mining area known as the Ring of Fire, located in the James Bay Lowlands of northern Ontario.

"There's no question that this ruling is creating, I think, a reason ... to enhance the positions that First Nations have been taking,” Yesno said.

Northern Development and Mines minister Michael Gravelle said the province will review the ruling.

But he noted there's a significant difference between BC and Ontario because, unlike the Ring of Fire, the BC land in question doesn't fall under a treaty.

"Regardless, I certainly recognize — as does our government — how important it is to meet, if not exceed, our duty to consult, [and] work as closely as we can with our First Nations … and our Aboriginal peoples on all major projects."

Still, Ontario might need to do more than consult, as the Supreme Court decision places a greater burden on governments to get consent — or justify — development on Aboriginal land.

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